Banking Compensation Under Scrutiny, Ripe for Change


Executive pay has been of particular interest to regulators for years, but it came into sharp focus after the stock option backdating scandal came to light. Companies were investigated. Executives went to prison. The Securities and Exchange Commission passed new pay disclosure rules. President Bush even advised stockholders to pay attention to what their executives were making and ensure it was tied to performance.


Now, in this economic fallout, when one bank and financial services firm after another is collapsing or being bought out, I can't help but think that maybe bank executive pay in particular will be under the microscope for awhile. An Economist story posted at CFO.com Friday suggests it may be. Here's an excerpt:

Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are gleefully grilling bankers on pay. New York state's attorney-general has reportedly issued a subpoena to Bank of America demanding data on its most well-rewarded employees. A penitent Peter Wuffli, ousted as UBS's chief executive in July 2007, has returned $10 million in bonus entitlements to the Swiss bank.... On November 16th Goldman Sachs, which kicks off the bonus round when it reports its full-year results next month, announced that its top executives would forgo their bonuses this year. Executives at Barclays, Deutsche Bank and UBS have done the same.

The story also suggests that pay schemes throughout bank organizations may be changing in coming days. The idea of negative bonuses for declining performance, and the concept of "more rigorous risk management" are beginning to gain a foothold.